Gitcoin / Quadratic Funding (Introducing Kevin Owocki)

Hey, Zcashers! I’d like to introduce Kevin Owocki from Gitcoin, if you don’t already know of him or his project. I’ve run into Kevin a few times around Boulder, Colorado, where I live. He organizes a regular local cybercoiners meetup, and we collaborated one time on an article he was writing about how to protect yourself from SIM swap attacks.

Also, of course: Gitcoin! Gitcoin is awesome. It’s an experiment in how to collaboratively fund open source in a new improved way and it has been through multiple successful iterations already and is increasingly important to the Ethereum community. I’ve sat down with him a couple of times to talk over Gitcoin and Kevin seems really legit to me. He ask me to show him how to address the Zcash community so I told him I’d start a thread here and point him to it. I’m happy that people like Kevin, who are already substantial contributors to other communities, think highly enough of Zcash that they want to engage with us. :smile:

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Thanks for the intro @zooko.

Hi everyone, great to be formally introduced. I’m the CEO of the Gitcoin project - our mission is to “Grow Open Source” and provide economic opportunities for developers. We’ve done about $4.5mm in funding for developers on Gitcoin. (Stats here https://gitcoin.co/results )

While I’m primarily known in the Ethereum community, I have been following Zcash quietly for years. In 2016 I mined some ZCash, and I have been following Zcash since then because I am a strong believer in the individual right to privacy against surveillance, and Zcash is producing bleeding edge innovation here.

One of our products is Gitcoin Grants, which is being used to fund development in the Ethereum space in a way that’s decentralized + democratic + community driven.

With Gitcoin Grants, we raise a matching pool (the last one in ETH was $250k). We then distribute the matching funds along with the community.

But here’s the rub: the breadth of contributors matters more than amount funded. This is super powerful because a $1 contribution can yield up to $150 in matching funds (if the grant is popular with a lot of people).

I’m considering applying to a grant with the Zcash Foundation to run a Grant round for the Zcash community with native $ZEC support, and wanted to get some community feedback before I do.

Would you folks as the community support doing a $15k Gitcoin Grants ZEC experiment?

History of Gitcoin Grants on Ethereum, by the numbers

Gitcoin Grants Round 1, Q1 2019. 200 Contributions - $38k raised.

The social graph (nodes are users who contributed, edges are transactions ):

round1

Round 2, Q2 2019. 400 Contributions - $56k raised:

The social graph (nodes are users who contributed, edges are transactions ):

round2

Round 3, Q3 2019. 2000 Contributions - $270k raised.

Round 3 we built a UI that estimated how many matching funds your donation would get.
See Also: Vitalik Buterin’s Review of Round 4

Social Graph :point_down:

round3

Round 4, Q1 2020. 5000 Contributions - $344k raised.

Round 4 included a Media Matching Fund (and plenty of controversy):
See Also: Vitalik Buterin’s Review of Round 4
Social Graph :point_down:

round%204

Round 5, Q2 2020. 8000 Contributions - $475k raised.

Round 5 included a Public Health Matching Fund, Negative Voting, Flagging, Round over Round Subscriptions, and of course, more controversy:
Vitalik’s Review Forthcoming
Social Graph :point_down:

More Details / Background

Our work in administering Grants rounds has been an important part of scaling the Ethereum ecosystem because

  1. It’s proven: We’ve done $2mm worth of Gitcoin Grants already.
  2. Every round creates a signal about what projects the community cares about.
  3. It is more decentralized than running a centralized grants program.
  4. It is more scalable than running a centralized grants program.
  5. It serves as a marketing schelling point for people to make noise about, and support, each other’s work.
  6. It pushes power to the edges, because it, as Glen Weyl puts it, “Is the mathematically optimal way to fund public goods that a broad swath of the public cares about”.

You can read more about our work funding the Ethereum space below

PS - Fun fact about the history of QF - Quadratic Funding used to be called “Capital-Constrained Liberal Radicalism”, and @zooko was the one who suggested to Vitalik and Glen Weyl that we call it “Quadratic Funding” instead.

More about me below

If you’re in Boulder Colorado, you may recognize me as the organizer of the Boulder Blockchain meetup. I’ve been in the space for a bit, launching adblock to bitcoin and pytrader back in 2015. I’ve also done some mining, building a mining rig which I used to mine on the ETH Mainnet in 2017, and actually I ran it on the ZEC mainnet launch day (but didn’t actually successfully mine a block – wahh!).

In 2017, I started work on Gitcoin - A double sided marketplace that connects knowledge workers to people who want to hire them. Our mission is to Grow Open Source and create new economic opportunities for coders.

Find me online here:

More about Gitcoin Below.

Gitcoin’s mission is to Grow Open Source and help devs find new economic opportunities.

Gitcoin is a double sided marketplace that connects workers to people who want to fund them. Our mission is to provide economic opportunities in open source to software developers.

There are many ways to do this, and gitcoin offers a few different products to enable this:

  • Virtual Hackathons: basically a physical hackathon but online & worldwide. sponsors post prizes and people compete to earn them by building stuff to the spnosors specification.

  • Grants: a better way to fund innovation in your ecosystem. grantees can create a fundraising page for “the great work they’re already doing” in the space, then raise $$$ for that work.

  • Ethical Ads, CodeFund - An advertising network that respects your privacy - Codefund allows you to monetize your audience without selling them out.

For more info on Gitcoin, checkout https://gitcoin.co/townsquare![round2|674x398]

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Oooh, nice visualizations , welcome back to the forums :grin:

This sounds pretty cool, though I’m not clear on the “applying to a grant with the Zcash Foundation to run a grant round” part.

Is this an opportunity for Zcashers to contribute to Gitcoin, or is this for the Gitcoin platform to raise funds for Zcash projects using the $15k to kick things off?

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Oooh, nice visualizations , welcome to the forums :grin:

Thanks. SimpleGraph.js (a OSS project :fist:) FTW!

This sounds pretty cool, though I’m not clear on the “applying to a grant with the Zcash Foundation to run a grant round” part.

Is this an opportunity for Zcashers to contribute to Gitcoin, or is this for the Gitcoin platform to raise funds for Zcash projects using the $15k to kick things off?

Thanks for welcoming me back to the forums.

We don’t want any contributions to Gitcoin at this time, we want to invite the Zcash community to raise funds for Zcash projects. And we’ll use all of the $15k the match contributions to Zcash projects by Zcash community members.

The basic summary is this: We’d love to help the ZCash community fund their projects by hosting fundraising project pages on Gitcoin. The only catch is that the game theory doesn’t really work unless we raise a matching pool beforehand, and that’s why we’ve got that $15k ask.

This is how it’d work.

  1. We’d get $15k in $ZEC from the Zcash Foundation (or a whale) as a grant, 100% of which would be used as a matching pool for Zcash Community Grants.
  2. We’d build native $ZEC support into Gitcoin and invite everyone to create fundraising grant profiles.
  3. We’d run a 2 week campaign where we match contributions up to $15k using Quadratic Funding
  4. Because of the way QF works, some grants will get lots of contributors, which will create attractive matching dynamics (donate $1 and get $25 in matching) for certain popular grants.
  5. Great projects in the $ZEC ecosystem will get supplemental money, and marketing from this engagement.
  6. We’d do a wrap up post, talking about what we saw in the round and where it meets (or where it falls short) of the Zcash community’s goals + the dream of decentralized public good funding.
  7. If we’re invited back, we’d do another round (presumably with more matching $$) + we’d iterate towards better funding mechanisms together.

Any questions let me know.

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Ah, I understand now. I would fully support a project like this, especially adding ZEC to Gitcoin.

So it sounds like once fulfilled (Angel or via a Grant) the community needs to get together and figure out what projects they would like to put onto the platform for raising funds. There are a couple open ones on the Zcash Foundation Grant platform that may be interested in applying. There has to be more than that out there though.

I would love for ZFND, ECC to get together to promote and really get the word out there for something like this to help attract more developers to work on Zcash. I know compared to Ethereum the amount is not a ton, but we have to start somewhere.

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This seems like it could be a great way to democratically direct funds to projects!

I’m curious: so far, have their been any big surprises on Gitcoin in terms of how funds are allocated? Have any projects been really successful at rallying donors, or has Gitcoin tipped funding towards particular projects in ways that were surprising to you all?

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So it sounds like once fulfilled (Angel or via a Grant) the community needs to get together and figure out what projects they would like to put onto the platform for raising funds. There are a couple open ones on the Zcash Foundation Grant platform that may be interested in applying. There has to be more than that out there though.

Yep, thats about right. Though one slight modification to what you said: The community doesnt really need to get together to post the grants. Anyone can post a grant without much coordination with others. This is a nice incentive structure because every actor in the ecosystem has a rational economic incentive to post a grant, and can do so in a permissionless way.

I would love for ZFND, ECC to get together to promote and really get the word out there for something like this to help attract more developers to work on Zcash. I know compared to Ethereum the amount is not a ton, but we have to start somewhere.

+1 on getting starting somewhere + iterating. We actually started with a $25k matching round in the ETH community 15(ish) months ago. But we iterated after we built some trust in the mechanism.

This seems like it could be a great way to democratically direct funds to projects!

Yep thats the idea. Glen calls this “the mathematically optimal way to fund public goods democratically”.

I’m curious: so far, have their been any big surprises on Gitcoin in terms of how funds are allocated?

Vitalik in his round 3 post talked about some of his big surprises with round 3 @ https://vitalik.ca/general/2019/10/24/gitcoin.html :

Judging results is inherently a subjective exercise; any single person’s analysis of a mechanism will inevitably be shaped by how well the results fit their own preferences and tastes. However, in those cases where a mechanism does output a surprising result, one can and should use that as an opportunity to learn, and see whether or not one missed some key information that other participants in the mechanism had.

Here’s a specific result of a surprising grant from Vitalik’s post::

Another surprising result to me was Austin Griffith getting second place. I personally have never spent too much time thinking about Burner Wallet; I knew that it existed but in my mental space I did not take it too seriously, focusing instead on client development, L2 scaling, privacy and to a lesser extent smart contract wallets (the latter being a key use case of Gas Station Network at #8). After seeing Austin’s impressive performance in this Gitcoin round, I asked a few people what was going on.

Personally, after 5 rounds, I’m past being surprised by any specific grants… and I’ve instead just made a habit of using the grants tools to discover new interesting projects that I was not previously aware. Projects with the most contributors are “rising stars” in the ecosystem.

Here’s a specific one that I like: Tornado.cash mixer tech I think is neat . https://gitcoin.co/grants/198/tornadocash

Have any projects been really successful at rallying donors, or has Gitcoin tipped funding towards particular projects in ways that were surprising to you all?

Checkout the grants from round 5 ranked by match amount in descending order => https://gitcoin.co/grants/?sort_option=-clr_prediction_curve__0__1&category=

One really popular grant is Sam Sun’s white hat hacking grant https://gitcoin.co/grants/444/white-hat-hacking Sam is a white hat hacker that finds flaws in DEFI projects and then reports them to the dev teams. He’s built quite the reputation for saving DEFI users millions of $$$$, so he’s gotten 234 contributors in the last matching round.

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I love that Grassroots Economics is on there! That project is fascinating.

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I fully support the idea and we’d (ECC) get the word out there. We often have 3rd parties that say they would add shielded support, for example, if we could cover some or all of their development. This would be a great place to surface those.

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Thanks for submitting this Kevin; as with others in the community I’ve followed along Gitcoin’s progress with great interest. Both the ECC and Zcash Foundation contributed directly to Gitcoin for the Blake precompile grant last year, though not in the manner you’re describing here; instead it was a direct grant for specific work.

And that’s what the Zcash Foundation generally likes to fund — direct grants for specific work. While this a cool concept, based on previous experience with our grant platform we are skeptical of broad participatory interest. We previously had crowdfunding in our platform, but we removed it after lack of interest from the community; I don’t have the exact numbers off hand but it was less than a dozen crowd-funded contributors, with an average of less than 1 ZEC, even with the Foundation offering to match funds alongside additional bounties (though not with Gitcoin’s sophistication).

Consequently the Foundation probably wouldn’t fund this. That said, once the Major Grant Review Committee is formed, it may be very interested in this avenue for crowd-funded augmentation of their dev fund slice starting in November — would be really interesting to see the MGRC (a community-selected body) augment crowd-funding in a community-driven, community-matched mechanism.

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Hi Josh, hows it going?

Thanks for submitting this Kevin; as with others in the community I’ve followed along Gitcoin’s progress with great interest. Both the ECC and Zcash Foundation contributed directly to Gitcoin for the Blake precompile grant last year, though not in the manner you’re describing here; instead it was a direct grant for specific work.

I remember this. Pretty pumped for this work to be done, looks like is still ongoing. I’m always happy to see opportunities for community interop wherein both ETH and ZEC communities benefit!

We previously had crowdfunding in our platform, but we removed it after lack of interest from the community; I don’t have the exact numbers off hand but it was less than a dozen crowd-funded contributors, with an average of less than 1 ZEC

Thanks for sharing your experience in the past. We actually had a similar experience with crowdfunding when we first launched Gitcoin Grants in Q1 2019, insofar that no one really used it.

The breakthrough for us came when we started computing matching estimates and displaying them prominently in the UI. Something like this is what we’re going for:

Screen Recording 2020-04-30 at 12.58 PM

The psychology of “contribute $1 and this grant gets $100” is what really changed the game for us, and it’s what took us from 400 contributions in Round 2 to 2000 contributions in Round 3.

I’m not sure if that changes anything for you, but thats at least one data point on who things went for us.

And that’s what the Zcash Foundation generally likes to fund — direct grants for specific work

Got it. Thanks for the feedback. I am more than happy to “respect the no” if thats what is the best path, so please let me know if I’m being beligerant by trying to respectfully work through the objection.

The direct piece of specific work we’re looking to do is to do a small round of QF together over the summer. The goal is to have data-point (albeit a small one) that we can take to MGRC in the fall to make a case for doing something bigger (and thereby more meaningful) together then.

In order to prioritize native $ZEC integration internally vs other priorities, we were hoping to to do the $15k round. I don’t plan to book it as revenue or anything, 100% of the funds will be disbursed to the Zcash community for their “direct grants for specific work”. Though I am not certain that this “passthrough mechanism” is compelling to you, I figured I would explicitly mention it.

Thanks again for the feedback! :pray:
@owocki

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Hi @owocki!

I am 100% in favor of running one or more smallish Quadratic Funding (QF) experiments for the Zcash community and learning / scaling up!

Punchline: let’s round up funds for a few pilot Gitcoin QF iterations from anywhere we can and do it! I will personally donate if others come to the table.

My Perspective on Zcash Funding Institutions:

So far in Zcash’s lifespan there have been primarily three fairly independent institutions stewarding the protocol, community, and development: ECC, Zfnd, and community contributors, some of whom are outright pillars of support for Zcash. (For example @Shawn who’s set up and operated a lot of community infrastructure and you see welcoming you back with a friendly face.)

Of these, ECC + Zfnd are well funded via a portion the Founders Reward, whereas the community at large has no such funding. ECC and Zfnd have then deployed those funds in a mostly top-down fashion, with ECC doing mostly in-house stuff and commercial or strategic partnerships. Zfnd has done similar plus also set up ZF Grants as one opportunity for funding projects through their selection process.

With the institution of a new Major Grants as a recipient of the new Dev Fund, there will now be a fourth institution which will also be allocating ZEC mostly independently from ECC & Zfnd. A notable difference from Zfnd grants is that Major Grants (as a whole) is slated to allocate much larger amounts of funding.

A Primary Strategic Strength:

I consider having three independent organizations allocating development funds as they are issued from the blockchain to be a primary strategic strength of Zcash. This is a tangible and effective form of decentralization.

In fact, I personally consider this bigger than zeroknowledge proof tech or world-class teams, even though those are right up there on Zcash strengths.

Why Gitcoin QF is an improvement:

However, Zcash can do better, and that’s why I’m very excited for Gitcoin-driven Quadratic Funding to add to the mix.

I think about it like this: suppose you want to get paid to improve Zcash. What are your options?

  1. Get hired by, or strike a partnership with, a company / org that would pay you a salary to do so, ex: ECC, Zfnd, companies with Zcash-integrated products / services, …
  2. Apply to ZF Grants for small to mid-sized projects that align with Zfnd’s mandate and vision.
  3. Apply to Major Grants for mid-to-large projects that align with Major Grant’s mandate and vision.
  4. (If Gitcoin QF ramps up:) Apply for QF funding for small-to-mid-sized (?) projects that align with broad community vision.

The key strength here, IMO, is that there will be multiple visions with funding mechanisms that work well for different project organizations, with no central control over visions or funding. (This is already true without Gitcoin QF but is improved by it.)

For me, the Gitcoin QF is an important qualitative improvement to the landscape because the other funding options are all mostly top-down, although it remains to be seen how MG will decide on allocations. A different reason I consider Gitcoin QF to be highly valuable is that it may bring along with it a distinct community, and I’d love to grow both the diversity and size of the Zcash community by engaging in collaboration around communities of shared values.

For this reason I definitely support doing at least 3 or so Gitcoin QF iterations to see if it gains traction, using funding we can scrape together from any sources, be they grants or private donations. What would be a realistic projection of the total of matching pools for three iterations? (IMO, it’s not worth an experiment without committing to at least >1 iteration to see developmental changes.)

Personal Skin in the Game:

I believe so much that running this experiment is good for Zcash that I am willing to donate personally towards matching pools (separate from ECC or any official grants). I’d be most motivated if a half dozen or more folks showed up to donate to matching pools.

regards,
Nathan

ps: I have multiple concerns about Quadratic Funding! But I see them all as something that we can address or improve on through iteration, and also any funding approach has different trade-offs.

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@owocki: A few thoughts:

I started chatting with individuals who might donate to a funding pool for the first pilot iteration or iterations. That helped me immediately realize I don’t know the best way to do this. Should I gather pledges? When the time comes how/where should people send funds? Would Gitcoin host a ZEC wallet for this? Any advice or help here? If that could be clarified, then I would start doing broad outreach, like tweeting or posting generally to this forum for “bootstrap donation pledges”.

Second, it seems slightly odd to ask for donations to a matching pool, which then is used to do donation matching. Kind of a chicken-and-egg issues, but I suppose to get the first iterations off the ground it’s necessary for bootstrapping. Have you ever crowd-sourced donations for grant matching pools previously or have they always come through grants?

Third, could you comment on my suggestion that we precommit to ~3 iterations? Is that feasible? I suppose if we could only round up funds and interest for N=1 I would still probably go for it, although I feel it’s suboptimal.

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Hey Nathan, thanks so much for your offer! It really means a lot that you personally believe in this to put skin in the game.

An Update: The Zcash Grant was accepted without funding. So we’ll need to figure a want to reach the $15k goal some other way. I added a tip address to the grant => https://grants.zfnd.org/proposals/1771900007-15k-gitcoin-grants-round-for-the-zcash-community so we can collect donations that way.

Let me think a bit more this weekend on how to progress with this. In the meantime, if people want to see this happen, contributing to the above grant (or making an intro to someone who cares about this cause) are two ways to help!

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Great!

I’m glad you’re interested in moving forward without a ZF grant. Their policy is self-consistent, and as I implied in my post, having separate independent funding avenues seems best for the Zcash ecosystem.

Now the only trick is to see if we can drum up support from donations or other sources. :wink:

The only hurdle I see right now before I start banging the gong is that many people probably prefer a threshold-based pledge or threshold-based escrow such that if the project doesn’t go through they get their donation back.

I’m not sure ZF Grants “tips” do that. Do you want to try to do that manually by offering to refund folks if we don’t reach a threshold? (I think this is an important sticking point. For example, the question of refunds was the first question I received on twitter.)

The specifics of that might get tricky. We should make sure that people include their return-to address in the memo to the sapling address I see on ZF Grants. Also, if that address is provided by ZF Grants operators, you’d need to get the (private) refund info from them in the event of a refund.

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Do you want to try to do that manually by offering to refund folks if we don’t reach a threshold?

Yes I just went on record and posted a commitment to refund all contributions if we raise less than $15k by June 15th 2020.

I made this commitment on the grants page itself. https://grants.zfnd.org/proposals/1771900007-15k-gitcoin-grants-round-for-the-zcash-community

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Yay! I made a new thread to crowd source donations for the initial matching pool: Announcing: a Crowd Funding Campaign for a Gitcoin + Zcash Pilot

I decided a new thread might raise visibility for this new approach.

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I love this graphic, and all that it implies.